HS Calorimeter Wait What Just Happened Answers Resource v1.1

For Teachers
Engineering Design in Oregon Science Classrooms
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“Wait, What Just Happened?” Answers Resource for Calorimeters
1. What do you think caused the water temperature to drop drastically?
Any ideas are fine, encourage creative thinking. Actual cause is that the
endothermic reaction to dissolve salt draws energy away from the water on the
outside of the cup, causing a temperature drop and phase change.
2. Did the reaction in the beaker release heat energy to its surroundings or did it absorb heat energy from its
surroundings? Why?
It absorbed heat. Energy is required to dissolve potassium chloride in water. Dissolving
potassium chloride in water is endothermic because breaking the bonds between the potassium
and chloride requires energy and thus absorbs energy. When the resulting potassium and
chloride ions form attractions with the water molecules, energy is released but this energy is less
than the energy absorbed by breaking the crystal lattice bonds of the potassium chloride so the
net result is absorption of energy. In other words the change in enthalpy is positive for
potassium chloride.
3. Can you think of a good way to measure the amount of energy absorbed in this reaction? List your ideas
Especially encourage all creative ideas. Ideally, one would want a calorimeter,
an adiabatic device that measures the change in temperature of a substance to
determine how much heat was exchanged.
4. Bonus question: Why didn’t the water in the beaker freeze while the water outside of the beaker did?
Encourage many ideas. The water inside the beaker did not freeze because the
salt lowers the freezing point. Reference elementary chemistry books concerning
freezing point depression.
1. What type of cup do you think would be the best for retaining heat? Why?
A nice coffee cup, especially foam ones or ceramic mugs. A thermos would also
be good. The insulating properties would help keep the heat inside.
2. What materials do you think would improve any cups’ insulating properties?
Cloth, foam or certain plastics might improve a cup’s insulating properties
3. Which do you think is a better insulator: aluminum foil or cloth?
4. Where might a calorimeter lose heat?
Air, calorimeter walls, etc. Encourage multiple ideas.